I’m just back from a five-day trip to Paris, where there were a few exhibitions I wanted to see. Foremost of these was the Art of Bamboo in Japan (Fendre l’Air) at the Quai Branly Museum.
I’ve written previously about the history of bamboo basketry in Japan and some of the main makers. What this exhibition does exceptionally well is trace the development of bamboo art from a functional but still beautiful craft to contemporary sculptural forms.
Rokansai, widely considered to be the most important bamboo artist of the 20th century, developed the concept of three types of basket:
Shin: Formal pieces that are symmetrical and very neatly plaited
Gyo: Semi-formal pieces, either symmetrical with irregular weaving or asymmetrical with regular weaving, or a combination of both
So: Informal pieces, often free form, that my integrate a handle made of a rhizome.
As a material, bamboo is supple, light, astonishingly flexible yet mechanically resistant, and impermeable – as these pieces show.
For the past few weeks I’ve been back at Morley College on Tuesday evenings, attending a creative basketry course with Stella Harding. The focus of this course, though I didn’t know it when I signed up, was random weaving, so I’ve been able to build on the classes I did with Polly Pollock earlier this year.
Stella brought along lots of inspiring samples.
We started by making open and closed forms in cane without using moulds, which was new to me. We also had a go at dyeing cane.
Now we’ve been let loose on experimenting for ourselves, with different materials and forms – here are some of the pieces I’ve made.
This is a more complex form in cane. Apparently this style is known as a hen basket – I can just imagine a chicken sitting in there. 🙂
This was a random weave piece I made using dead fronds from some kind of palm in my back garden. I have no idea where it came from and have always thought it rather unattractive – but it’s great for basketry material!
And this is a piece that combines felt and paper yarn, inspired by a physalis (cape gooseberry).
Some of these samples are helping me work up ideas for a couple of exhibitions coming up next year – watch this space!
I spent yesterday near the Ashdown Forest in Sussex doing a hexagonal weave workshop with the lovely Polly Pollock. We were working in the cosy studio of another basket maker, Annemarie O’Sullivan, as the squally showers drenched the garden and fields outside.
Using flat cane, Polly started by showing us how to make the base of the basket. Weaving in three directions (triaxial weaving) looks a little tricky but if you remember some basic rules it should be OK.
To form the sides of the basket you need to create corners, which require pentagons rather than hexagons.
Then it’s back to hexagons and business as usual.
The trickiest part is finishing off. I made my first acquaintance with an Archimedes drill (if you pierce cane it tends to split) and after a bit of nerve wracking precision cutting it was complete!
Here are all our baskets lined up, finished with different coloured chair cane – guess which one is mine! 🙂
Depending on where you place the corners you can produce different shapes.
So sorry for the radio silence – the past few weeks have been filled with doing rather than writing! Here’s a round up. (Warning – lots of pics!)
I had a wonderful time at the two workshops I ran in Kent on felting and ecoprinting. Two very enthusiastic groups of ladies made some beautiful work. Hopefully we will be able to arrange some more workshops in the future.
Artistic window display featuring dentures and dental implements:
More (and more!) dental implements:
And a cute Italian poster for toothpaste:
I also went to the Chelsea College MA Textiles exhibition (finishes today). I loved these beautiful ethereal garments made from discarded fishing nets by Jialu Ma:
Hongyangzi Sun’s knitted magnetic building blocks were lots of fun:
I also liked Anum Rasul’s architectural textile constructions, combining hard and soft elements:
And Miles Visman constructed a fascinating colour exercise showing how embroidered panels change under different lighting:
Inspired by nature
I spent a lovely weekend in Deal in the gorgeous cottage of a friend, going for walks on the beach and in the countryside and sitting in the garden.
I thought this was a giant dandelion but I’m told it’s meadow salsify:
Spot the crab (or ex-crab):
Work in progress
I’ve been experimenting with coloured backgrounds in ecoprinting:
And I’ve also been trying some weaving with palm fronds. In my back garden is some kind of palm. I don’t know what it is or how it got there – I didn’t plant it! The lower part has lots of dead fronds so as I was tidying it up a bit I thought I would try a bit of weaving with them. They are surprisingly easy to work with and I like the frayed ends where they were removed from the trunk.
I’ve always been intrigued by puzzle balls. There used to be one on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, but I think it’s currently in storage. These days the use of ivory is quite rightly frowned on, but I still have to admire the skill required to carve one ball inside another.
I started with the innermost ball, and then put that inside another mould and wove another ball around that.
Then I repeated the process, so I had three balls in total.
Some of the ivory puzzle balls had as many as 20 balls, but as I wasn’t sure how this would work I thought that three would do to start with. 😉
Removing the moulds from the outer layers was reasonably straightforward, but it was tricky getting – and keeping – the holes in the balls lined up to get the mould out of the innermost ball. However, with a bit of persistence and a pair of needle nose pliers I finally managed it.
I was really pleased that the principle worked! However, there were a few problems, which I will work on next time.
On the middle layer I used a red Sharpie pen to mark where the holes should be. But the red rubbed off on the paper yarn, as you can see in some of the pictures. So on the outermost layer I just used masking tape to mark the position of the holes. But this wasn’t very exact, and some of the holes were too large and the size was inconsistent. I think I shall use some sticky labels cut to shape next time.
The outer balls are too large – I need to make the outer moulds smaller so that the balls nest inside each other more snugly.